ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The friars in HNP’s Ministry of the Word held their annual meeting Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 at St. Anthony Friary here. While this meeting usually focuses on concrete matters such as the content of our parish mission talks, the format for the mission, this year’s gathering was focused more on how we understand ourselves and our role in the Church and in the Order.
The first two days of the meeting were led by Sr. Helen Roberts, OSF, and Sr. Margaret Magee, OSF, both of them members of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany. We looked at issues such as preaching to women and the role of women in the Church, especially as preachers.
Though women and lay men cannot preach at the liturgy, they can preach missions, retreats, and similar services. Attention was drawn to the fact that the early friars preached as lay preachers, often in town squares rather than in church.
Perhaps the one “buzz word” that we took from our discussion was the notion that the Portiuncula in Assisi holds within it a “dangerous memory” of the early days when the order was primarily lay and not so institutionalized by Church authorities. From Maintenance to Mission by Robert Rivers, SCSP was highly recommended to us by the sisters as well
There was some discussion as well on the concerns of women religious over the visitation that is now being conducted by the Vatican. While all of us friars were basically familiar with the issues, it was great to hear the concerns spoken by Margaret and Helen and to lend them support.
The second two days of the meeting were centered around two documents that affect us as preachers, one from the bishops’ Synod on the Word of God, the other from the 2009 Chapter of the Order titled Bearers of the Gift of the Gospel. We were delighted with the Order’s focus on evangelization and with seeing ourselves as brothers in mission. We discussed what our role might be in the province as a team of friars that focuses specifically on evangelization at a time when this becomes a direction for every ministry in some way.
We agreed to hold next year’s meeting at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., the week following the Jan. 3 to 7 Provincial Chapter.
— Fr. John, who lives at the St. Petersburg friary, is co-director of Holy Name’s Ministry of the Word.
Editor’s Note: Information about the activities of Ministry of the Word friars in the North can be found in theProvincial Annals 2009 in a piece by Raphael Bonnano, OFM, and in the winter 2009 Bethany Ministries newsletter, produced by Peter Chepaitis, OFM.